One thing you can count on in life is change.And as you age, your appearance proves no exception to this rule. Although a growing number of people turn to plastic surgery and other invasive procedures to minimize the effects of aging, natural options can help you preserve and enhance your beauty through the years and avoid taking drastic, expensive, and potentially harmful measures. To help you on this path, we talked to three leading holistic skincare experts to pinpoint the most important steps you can take during each decade to look and feel your best today, next month, and even years from now. Because your body absorbs much of what you put on your skin, we suggest you use only the cleanest, least chemical-laden ingredients available—that way, your efforts don’t sabotage your commitment to living healthfully. No matter where you fall on this time line, be sure to read the decades that come before and after, because true beauty, like wisdom, is cumulative.
In Your 20s
Apply sunscreen daily. “People in their 20s think they can bake in the sun because they haven’t seen the damage manifest yet,” says Jenefer Palmer, founder and president of Osea Skincare and Spa in Malibu, California. “But sun damage takes 15 to 20 years to present itself.” Look for sunscreens with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide—minerals that create a physical barrier on the skin to reflect the sun’s harmful rays. And cultivate smart sun habits—stop sunbathing, avoid the sun during peak hours, and wear a hat if you’re outside for long periods of time.
We suggest: For a daily facial moisturizer with sun protection, consider the SPF 30 Sheer Moisturizer from Juice Beauty ($29, 2 oz; juicebeauty.com), which has titanium dioxide and two shade options, in case you prefer a tinted moisturizer.
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Take steps to seal in your skin’s natural moisture now to diminish the hydration challenges you’ll face in the years to come. In lieu of moisturizer, Stephanie Tourles, licensed aesthetician and author of Organic Body Care Recipes (Storey Publishing, 2007), recommends using nutrient-rich natural oils such as avocado, jojoba, coconut, or almond.
We suggest: Aura Cacia has a line of organic oils, such as Organic Sweet Almond Oil ($11.95, 4 oz; auracacia.com). For best absorption, apply the oil directly to damp skin after every shower.
Go easy on the shampoo. Shampoos contain harsh detergents that strip hair of all oil—a key component when it comes to shiny, strong hair. As you age, your locks dry out and become more prone to breaking. Modifying your shampoo habits now can prevent some of this damage. Shampoo only three times a week; you can still wet your hair other days—just skip the shampoo and massage your scalp to dislodge dirt and excess oil. To avoid the greasy look, Tourles recommends regular brushing. “Brushing your hair from root to tip every night—like your grandmother did—distributes the natural oil in the scalp all the way to the end of the hair and promotes a healthy luster.”
We suggest: Use only products free of sodium lauryl sulfate—the harsh foaming agent found in most shampoos—such as Nature’s Gate Organics Lavender and Aloe Shampoo ($7.99, 12 oz; natures-gate.com).
In Your 30s
Choose a mild cleanser. “Your skin begins to dehydrate in your 30s, and you may start to notice fine lines around the corners of your eyes and mouth,” says Tourles. She recommends switching to a gentler, less drying facial cleanser to boost moisture retention. We suggest: Switch to a nonfoaming cleansing milk, such as Zia Natural Skincare’s Moisturizing Cleanser ($16.95, 8.3 oz; zianatural. com), or an oil, such as Origins’ Clean Energy Gentle Cleansing Oil ($17.50, 6.7 oz; origins.com).
Moisturize from the inside out. “Up your commitment to hydration even further by making sure you drink enough water every day and limiting your consumption of coffee and alcohol, which are extremely dehydrating,” Tourles explains. “A couple of teaspoons of a fish oil blend, cod liver oil, or flaxseed oil every day helps keep skin flexible and moist and can diminish fine lines.”
We suggest: Replace some or all of your coffee and alcohol with water or antioxidant-rich green tea, and start taking high-quality essential fatty acids. For vegetarian, flax-based oils, look to Udo’s Choice oils from Flora Health USA (florahealth.com). A good source of fish oils is Nordic Naturals (nordicnaturals.com).
Treat your feet. The gradual moisture loss from your skin shows up more dramatically in naturally drier areas, such as your feet.
We suggest: Buy a pumice stone, and scrub the soles of your feet two or three times a week in the shower. Before bed, slather your soles with a rich moisturizer containing lanolin, cocoa butter, shea butter, or coconut oil, such as Burt’s Bees Coconut Foot Crème ($9, 4.3 oz; burtsbees.com).
In Your 40s
Tend to your tresses. You’ll see big changes in your hair now. “As you get older, your hair gets drier, and its protein structure changes, making the outer layer more flyaway,” says Tourles. Coloring or chemically altering your hair only speeds this process.
We suggest: Start weekly hot oil treatments—warm a half cup to a cup (depending on hair length) of extra-virgin olive oil. Apply oil to dry hair, wrap in a towel, and let penetrate for an hour before showering and rinsing. It’s also a good idea to add a protein-based conditioner to your regimen, such as Aubrey Organics’ GPB Glycogen Protein Balancing Conditioner ($10.28, 11 oz; aubrey-organics.com), which smooths hair cuticles and adds shine.
Stop the sag. If you’ve noticed a general increase in droopiness—under your eyes, under your chin, on the undersides of your arms, or on your thighs—you’re probably right. “In your 40s, the supportive structures of the dermis—collagen and elastin—begin to dehydrate and lose strength,” Tourles says. But don’t despair—you can reinforce your skin’s natural tautness.
We suggest: Look for moisturizers with natural plumping agents, such as hyaluronic acid, peptides, vitamins A and C, and DPHP (dipalmitoyl hydroxyproline), a plant-derived amino acid. Laveré Ultimate Eye Cream ($69, 0.5 oz; lavera.com), contains grape-seed extract, evening primrose oil, and plant-derived collagen for improving the appearance of fine lines and puffiness around the eyes. For your face or body, you’ll like Home Health’s Hyaluronic Acid Moisture Cream ($14.99, 4 oz; homehealthus.com) with green-tea extract.
Exfoliate, gently. “By your 40s, your skin’s natural process of shedding dead skin cells, known as desquamation, declines,” says Jeannette Graf, MD, a Great Neck, New York, dermatologist and author of Stop Aging, Start Living (Crown, 2007). As a result, skin can look dull and feel coarse. Exfoliating helps, but because skin is also thinner now, products containing ground nuts and seeds, with their accompanying jagged edges, can damage the skin. The key is to choose an exfoliant that doesn’t overabrade.
We suggest: Use products with alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid derived from milk, glycolic acid derived from sugar cane, peptides, and salicylic acid—a beta hydroxy acid derived from willow bark. You can also try at-home microdermabrasion kits, such as the Natural Microdermabrasion Kit by Zia Natural Skincare ($79.95, zianatural.com).
In Your 50s
Feed your skin. Palmer recommends using essential oils and seaweed to apply nutrients directly to skin. “The older you get, the more valuable essential oils are—they immediately make your skin glow and look dewy, and seaweed is a fantastic source of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements.”
We suggest: Look for reputable suppliers of essential oils such as Wyndmere Naturals (wyndmerenaturals.com) or Mountain Rose Herbs (mountainroseherbs.com). Combine several drops of essential oils according to your skin type with macadamia nut oil for dry skin or avocado oil for sensitive skin to make a personalized moisturizing blend, or choose a preformulated essential oil blend such as Tourles’ own Herbal Skin Revitalizer ($45, 0.5 oz; jeansgreens.com). Also, pick up powdered seaweed or kelp from the bulk food section, and add 1/4 cup to your bath once a week. “Add some of your essential oils to the bath if you don’t like the low-tide smell of the seaweed,” Palmer advises. “The bath will soften and remineralize your skin.”
Moisturize even more. Dryness becomes an ever-growing challenge. It’s time to add a twice-weekly moisturizing facial mask in addition to your daily hydrating routine.
We suggest: Look for rich ingredients such as avocado, evening primrose oil, seaweed, and algae derivatives to help keep skin supple. Try the Calendula Hydrating Mask from John Masters Organics ($26, 2 oz; johnmasters.com).
Pump up your hair. “As you get older, your metabolism slows down, and your circulation has a harder time reaching the extremities of the body, including your scalp,” Tourles says. One result: thinning hair.
We suggest: Combine a tablespoon of jojoba oil, such as Desert Essence Organic Oil ($14.99, 4 oz; desertessence.com), which Tourles says is almost chemically identical to the oil produced by your scalp, with three to four drops of rosemary essential oil to stimulate circulation. Apply the oil to your dry scalp, and rub it in for three to five minutes. Then run your fingers through the length of your hair to distribute the oils. Don a shower cap, and let the oils seep in for up to an hour, then rinse.
And Beyond …
Buff your entire body. Once you reach your 60s, your skin cells renew much more slowly. “Up until about age 35, your skin cells completely regenerate every 28 days. By the time you’re 60, that life cycle has slowed to 45 or 50 days,” Tourles explains. Exfoliation is more important than ever before and should extend to the entire body.
We suggest: Use a nonabrasive exfoliant on your body at least once a week. Pangea’s Egyptian Geranium scrub ($33, 3.8 oz; pangeaorganics.com) uses cranberry and adzuki beans to remove dead cells without damaging skin.
Prioritize good fats. You’ve probably lost a lot of fat padding under your skin, resulting in further changes in the structure of your face and dryness in the feet, cuticles, and nails. Tourles recommends upping your healthy fat intake to counteract this process.
We suggest: Increase cod liver, fish, or flaxseed oil consumption to 1 or 2 tablespoons a day, and make sure you get plenty of high-quality fat in your diet from wild salmon or other cold-water fish, grass-fed beef, nuts, and flaxseeds.
Target sun spots. Depending on how much sun exposure you’ve had over the years, hyperpigmentation and blotchiness can show up now.
We suggest: Give yourself a regular weekly mask by spreading a thin layer of plain yogurt on your face and neck. Let penetrate for 20 minutes before rinsing. “The lactic acid in the yogurt is a natural exfoliant and lightening agent,” Tourles explains. “With consistent use, your pigmentation can become noticeably more even.”
Kate Hanley is a frequent contributor to Natural Solutions magazine.